Yes, it’s already that time again. In just a week and a handful of days, Black Friday will be here, parking will be crazy, the stores will be packed, and some insane woman just might knock you flat on your back at Macy’s in her mad dash for doorbuster bling. Oh, yeah. IT’S CHRISTMAS SHOPPING TIME!!!
Then again, perhaps you’re like us this year. You don’t want to stand in line. You don’t want to fight the crowds. You don’t want to continue searching for the perfect gift for people who already have everything they could possibly need or want for a lifetime. You want to do something bigger this year.
You want to change the world for Christmas.
As you are already well aware of, I’m sure, an American making $30,000 a year is already wealthier than 94% of the world. In many third world countries, child mortality rates are tripled what they are here in the US because of a lack of clean water. And for most of the people living in the world, there is no end in sight to poverty.
This year for Christmas, you can do something about this problem. You can literally change the world while also completing your Christmas shopping, away from the lines, crowds, and away from the insanity of the season. Here are some links to (and descriptions of) ministries and organizations that are giving you an amazing opportunity to alleviate poverty this season…
World Crafts Village — This ministry sets up opportunities for people in poverty-striken countries to use their gifts and talents in making crafts indigenous to their own cultures. After the products are made, the Women’s Missionary Union of the SBC places them online for purchase, with all proceeds going to the artisans overseas who made them. While working in their native countries, they earn a wage and form relationships with on the field missionaries, hearing about Christ in the process. When you order a gift from World Crafts Village, you receive information about the group who made your product. I’ve lost count of how many things I’ve ordered from this ministry, y’all. From nativities to jewelry, handbags to kitchen accents, they have so many wonderful, intricately made items. Go check out their online catalog!
Operation Christmas Child — I believe that this week is national collection week for this ministry, so it might already be too late for this year. But this is a GREAT ministry to keep in mind for next year! Samaritan’s Purse facilitates this overseas project, where shoeboxes packed with toys are taken to children in third world countries for Christmas. Churches and individuals in the US are given the opportunity to shop for toys, coloring books, candy, and other assorted fun items for these shoeboxes, which can be taken to nationwide sites for pickup and delivery. Thanks to technology, you can now “check in” your shoebox online, print off a label for the shoebox, and then check back at Christmas to see where your box went. Our girls love shopping for toys to fill up the shoeboxes, and we’re so excited to see where they go this year! Because of this ministry, children who would never get a gift for Christmas are able to celebrate the holiday with staff on the field when they receive their box. Please go and look at the site and just see their beautiful smiles!
Samaritan’s Purse — Operation Christmas Child is not the only Christmas ministry that this organization does. For those who are looking to bless whole families overseas, Samaritan’s Purse puts out a catalog (and an online one as well) of items that your donation can provide to those in need. For $35, for example, you can buy enough food to feed a family for a month, and for $70, you can buy a goat that will supply milk for a family. (There are gifts from all price ranges, even a section for gifts under $15.) If you’re buying a gift in honor of someone, Samaritan’s Purse will send you a card, free of charge, telling your gift recipient what has been purchased in their name. (The link I’ve provided takes you to a page on the Samaritan’s Purse website. To see the interactive catalog, click the link on the right hand side of that page!)
Compassion International — This ministry to children operates all year long, providing health care, food, education, and ministry to children in poverty. We sponsor a child in Uganda and a child in Ethiopia through Compassion, and we have had nothing but great experiences working with this organization. Along with our monthly donation, we’re able to exchange letters and pictures with Denis and Sitota, watching them grow up and learn. During the Christmas season and year-round, Compassion accepts donations for their “unsponsored child fund” so that impoverished children who live near the centers but haven’t yet received a sponsor can be fed and taken care of along with sponsored children. Beyond that, though, there is no better time than Christmas to begin sponsoring a child for the long-term. Please go look at Compassion’s site for opportunities to bless this ministry this season and to read about some of the children who are in need of sponsors.
International Mission Board — There is no more important season for the International Mission Board than the Christmas season. All over the US, Southern Baptist churches are taking up the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which provides for and supports international missions. By giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, you are supporting ministries to the most unreached corners of the world and providing for missionary families who have stepped out in faith and gone to reach the lost. I spent two years as a journeyman with the IMB, and while on the field saw many families of other denominations leave our country because they simply had no more funds to support the work they were doing. Because of the IMB and the generosity of SBC churches, Southern Baptist missionaries are able to stay and see the work to completion, investing their lives and all of their energy into the work of ministry. IMB accepts online donations and even has a section on their website where you can give to specific “human needs ministries,” where your money goes to a specific place and need. (And while you’re there on the site, I dare you to click on the “go” tab and just ponder what God might be calling you to do this upcoming year… I dare you!)
Happy shopping, friends, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!